Jet Airways Fires Both Pilots Involved In Cockpit Slapping Incident

Filed Under: Jet Airways

A week ago we learned about what unfolded on Jet Airways’ flight 119 from London to Mumbai on January 1, 2018. According to reports, the male pilot slapped the female pilot, who came out of the cockpit sobbing. Then the cabin crew persuaded her to go back into the cockpit, and most crazy of all, the other pilot left the cockpit completely unattended to convince her to return. Then she came back out of the cockpit once again, and they once again requested she return to the cockpit. The flight landed back in Mumbai safely, though it sounds like quite an incident.

We don’t know exactly what happened to cause things to unfold the way they did. There were some rumors that the two pilots were a couple, though that wasn’t ever substantiated.

At the time Jet Airways said they were investigating the “misunderstanding” that occurred, and that they suspended the two pilots in question as an investigation was being done. Furthermore, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation suspended the license of the captain who left the cockpit unattended.

Well, there’s now an update to this story. It’s bad news for the pilots, and good news for the general public. The Times Of India reports that Jet Airways has fired both of the pilots involved in this incident.

There’s an even crazier update to this story. In India they often seem to use the term “commander” for captain, and I saw several stories referencing two commanders. My assumption was that they were just misusing it. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead the pilot who was doing the slapping (flying in the right seat) was allegedly Jet Airways’ most senior 777 captain, while the female pilot (who was in command on this sector, flying in the left seat) was being attacked.

That senior commander may also have his license revoked. Here’s the explanation of why, per a DGCA official:

Asked why action was taken only against the co-pilot, another regulatory official said: “It is alleged the lady commander was hit by the co-pilot and she left the cockpit. As per rules, one pilot can leave the cockpit as long as another is there. So she left when one pilot was still on the controls. While the probe will examine her role as well, prima facie the co-pilot’s hitting the commander and then leaving the cockpit to bring her back in — leaving the cockpit unmanned — led us to suspend his flying licence immediately.”

I’m happy to see Jet Airways take action here. In general Jet Airways seems to have their stuff in order more than Air India does (where a pilot can be caught flying drunk three times and somehow still have a job).

We don’t know what exactly happened on this flight, though certainly the senior captain who was doing the slapping and who left the flight deck deserves never to fly again. We don’t know exactly what the situation for the female pilot was. If she was truly being physically abused and left the cockpit (which is allowed in India) and wasn’t doing anything to instigate the situation, then I certainly feel bad if she loses her job. Being a 777 captain at Jet Airways takes a lot of experience, so it sucks to end such a long career that way.

Regardless, I’m just happy that Jet Airways is doing something here, and that this behavior isn’t being tolerated.

(Featured image courtesy of Timothy Dauber)

  1. Really confused here…the title says that both pilots were fired but then you wrote that you would feel bad if the female pilot loses her job. So, did she get fired or not?
    Also you wrote that the male pilot got his license suspended immediately but then go on to write that the senior commander may also have his license revoked. Was his license revoked or not?

  2. Love the pace at which this was resolved. Had it been in the US, we’d be dilly-dallying over who and what still.

  3. Frankly I’m more concerned about my neighbour who is the captain for the Delta 777 from CVG to CDG – a route I travel frequently. I’ve never seen him sober when at home and I’m pretty sure he goes to the local AA. But again, it’s Delta so what should I expect? :/

    Good work 9E

  4. I agree @Jared. I’m happy swift punishment was handed out to the captain who hit the woman and left the cockpit unattended. If all of that is true the punishment seems fitting.

  5. As reported I’m not sure why the female pilot was fired. It would be interesting to get more details. Also curious why the most senior captain in the fleet was flying as the co-pilot. Ben do you know how these duties are assigned? I always assumed the more senior pilot would be the captain on the flight.

  6. Ok, so the “tree for the forest” both pilots will not have a problem getting another job. That’s the reality here. World wide pilot shortage

  7. The ‘Commander’ thing…..this is pretty common for european airlines too. For example at BA there is no such rank as ‘Commander’ the rank is Captain. But in all the safety/SOP manuals the title Captain is not used. Commander is. This is because often there is more than one Captain in the flight deck at one time. One could be a training Captain assessing another Captain. In another scenario there can be a relief Captain. However at any given time an in any given safety scenario there is only one Commander. This is communicated to all the crew and throughout a long range flight the Commander can change.

  8. Seems completely unfair if the woman pilot was fired because she left the cockpit. Was she supposed to sit there and be physically abused? She left in charge a senior pilot when she left. I’m sure she felt threatened after the slapping. She’s not allowed to remove herself from the situation….even for a short while?

  9. No Donald, the pilot in command cannot abandon the cockpit, nor can the first officer. Leaving a cockpit without a pilot endangered the aircraft and all aboard her. Period. Slapping the Captain was inexcusable and the co-pilot was rightly fired. But no matter how bad circumstances were up front, the Captain cannot simply abandon her duties mid-flight. The lives of the passengers and crew were at stake. Her inability to compose herself and reassert command demonstrated an abrogation of her duties. She had to be fired.

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